Empower Wisconsin | April 2, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — The Evers administration has issued a spate of orders and directives ostensibly designed to protect the public during the pandemic. But what’s the reasoning behind these decisions?
Hard data on the coronavirus and its effects in the Badger State has been slow in coming, if available at all, from Secretary-designee Andrea Palm’s Department of Health Services.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says the lack of solid data is a growing point of frustration for Wisconsin residents.
“We continue to put pressure on the administration to deliver it,” he said during a teleconference with the press Wednesday. “It seems they (the administration) are trying to pull something together, but have not been successful.”
Last week, Palm warned that the rapid spread of COVID-19 could infect 22,000 Wisconsin residents and kill as many as 1,500 people.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Wisconsin reported a total of 1,550 cases and 32 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Those basic numbers have been even hard to come by.
DHS officials say their models, reportedly based in part on World Health Organization projections, predicted a potential doubling of cases over four days. At a press conference earlier this week they acknowledged that in the previous seven days “we’re beating that, we have not doubled those numbers.”
They contend that the counts aren’t as dire as their worst-case projections because Gov. Tony Evers’ edicts ordering “non-essential” businesses closed and Wisconsinites to stay at home have saved the day.
How do they know for sure? They don’t. Or at least they can’t provide data to back up their contentions.
“Nothing frustrates me more than having decisions that are made where people can’t understand the rationale behind them,” Vos said.
“I know it’s a challenge but we need to have this data … We need to know how many people are hospitalized, how many people have recovered, how many people have tested positive. Some of those data points are put out there, but the rest need to be, too,” the speaker added.
Asked this week about the number of people that have recovered from the coronavirus, Ryan Westergard, chief medical officer of DHS’ Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said health officials “don’t have a good system for when a person is clear of infection.” In short, they don’t know. “It would be a guess.”
But other states are effectively tracking recoveries and other data that seem to be impossible for the Evers administration to collect.
Johns Hopkins University data from earlier this week estimated more than 160,000 patients worldwide had recovered from the coronavirus. That was out of the 765,000 confirmed cases of the virus. There were some 4,800 recoveries out of the more than 144,00 cases in the U.S.. The number of recoveries in the U,S, is lower because, according to health officials, the U.S. was hit later than many other countries and the COVID-19 outbreak peak is not expected to arrive until late this month.
“If other governments around the country can step up and do it, I know Wisconsin can do it, too,” Vos said, adding that the state needs clear data, not just “anecdotes and rumor.”